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World Press Freedom Day Announcement: Jim Foley found in Syria

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 3, 2013 02:25 PM

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GlobalPost correspondent and native New Englander James Foley has been located in Syria, announced GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni at a World Press Freedom Day event in Boston this morning.

According to a private security firm hired by GlobalPost to find Foley, he is being held in a detention facility in the Damascas area. Foley was kidnapped in Syria in November, 2012, just a stone’s throw from the Turkish border, and has been missing for 162 days. Balboni told reporters today that Foley was captured by “pro-government militia” and then handed over to the Assad regime.

JamesFoley_0712_011.jpgA well-known and accomplished conflict journalist for GlobalPost and AFP, Foley had previously been abducted by Gaddafi’s forces in Libya in 2011 and imprisoned for over 40 days.

Balboni said the facility where Foley is being held may be controlled by Syrian Air Force intelligence, and also may hold a number of other Western press, including “at least one other American.”

Balboni did not name the private security firm hired by Global Post, but said, “We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment.” He added that to the best of his knowledge, Foley had not been physically harmed.

Immediately following today’s announcement, many in the press corps who know Foley, or know of him, breathed a slight sigh of relief on Twitter, reposting the news that he had finally been located with the hashtag #freejamesfoley. (Full disclosure: I was an intern, copy editor, and blogger at GlobalPost and worked with Foley between 2008 and 2013.)

Of course, Foley’s situation is still treacherous. Although GlobalPost has been in touch with many influential figures in continued attempts to secure Foley’s release, the Syrian government refuses to confirm his whereabouts. It could take many more months to make progress on his release, and GlobalPost is being understandably tight-lipped about what other information they have.

Despite many questions from reporters, Balboni would not comment further on specifics, presumably so as to not risk losing track of Foley again.

“These are slow-motion crimes,” said David Rohde today at GlobalPost’s World Press Freedom Day event. Rohde, a New York Times and Reuters journalist who was kidnapped twice, discussed the danger of publicizing news about missing journalists, warning, “you don’t know how publicity is going to play” with kidnappers or hostile governments.

The Committee to Protect Journalists records that there are 232 journalists currently imprisoned around the world. Last year was one of the worst on record for conflict journalists, according to the CPJ. Over 70 reporters were killed in 2012, – 28 in Syria alone – and 17 have already been killed this year.

GlobalPost’s event today, “Silenced Voices: When Journalists Go Missing,” was timed to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. The panel discussion featured four reporters, three of whom, including Rohde, had previously been kidnapped and detained while on assignment.

The names of journalists who were killed covering conflicts last year were posted on the brick walls around the room at the Pilot House, the GlobalPost offices, as a somber reminder that conflict reporters often make the ultimate sacrifice to tell a story others can’t.

World Press Freedom Day was created in 1993 by UNESCO for the purpose of honoring journalists while also creating a day to focus on rights abuses and purposeful murder of reporters.

Former foreign correspondent and veteran reporter for the Boston Globe, David Filipov, who is about to travel to Chechnya, and who has previously reported from Russia and Afghanistan, spoke with Henry Santoro this morning about the importance of this global holiday, and some of his experiences working overseas.

Listen to his stories here:

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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